Why do you eat what you eat?
What you eat in a day should be based on your bodies needs and goals. It will always be affected by lifestyle by that I mean how you live each day; stresses, sleep, activity, mood and a very practical factor access to food plus the time to eat it.
Food preferences, the food you are used to and your personal tastes are important. Food allergies are a big consideration for many people. Your food belief system, veganism, low fat, calories in vs calories out and also fasting are very relevant and can provide the rules and structure you stick by. Finances is another factor as is your food prep skills, love of food whether there is laziness, comforting eating or a clean food obsessor can dictate the quality of your food.
There are many factors guiding what food you eat each day.
I thinking lunges are a great lower body exercise that requires plenty of butt activation, although not the best idea with tight ankles and a weak lower back. So you have to understand your current function in terms of muscles and joints if its exercise and digestive capacity, gut function, immune system health, detoxification efficiency if it’s food choices. As I alluded to above; psychology, spirituality, emotions, ethics, morals and blindly following what worked for your best pal 6 weeks before her last beach holiday are also in the mix when it comes to the question of what to eat.
We all have our own justifications for the food we eat daily with differing back stories. I love red meat and a juicy steak, but when I was in my youth I didn’t like the taste and thought it would make me fat and give me heart disease. To be fair when I was at university in second year Physiology the results of the long term Framingham Heart Study, started in 1948, were just being released and learned through that about the role of cholesterol and saturated fat in heart disease. I was also dieting constantly to make weight for boxing so I was a sponge for the low fat diet dogma. After 6 years at university that belief only strengthened. It took about 5 or 6 years after that before I really started to understand and study hormones in building muscle and losing fat that to appreciate the actual role for saturated fat and cholesterol in the body. Having an epiphany about how your body makes steroid hormones (including cortisol and testosterone) from cholesterol and that it’s made in the liver, brain, blood stream and nerve tissue finally helped me lose my low fat obsession/faith and led to a love of steak.
At the moment when it comes to deciding on what to eat my goals are largely shaped by recent stress, immune function and nutritional deficiencies. I am very aware it can take several months to fully restore the immune system so that has stayed a focus for supplementation. I am also following a period of injury (elbow tendonitis from over doing it) getting back to more resistance based exercise, so that additionally alters my daily needs for nutrition and supplementation.
I’m not the biggest fan of using the term “balanced diet” as it means different things to different people. It’s also. One of those bog standard terms used by nutritionists in the media to make it all sound so simple and in my eyes condescending, eat a balanced diet and all will be good in your life. When it comes to balance the challenge is daily needs vary; you absorb, use and excrete vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and fats at different rates and your food continues different amounts of nutrients depending upon how old the food is, how it was grown, the condition of the soil, how it was cooked and even how it was digested – did you chew each mouthful 20 times on each side or did you hoover your food, have you been exercising, stressed, sweating, on medication that affects absorption and nutrient need, dehydrated, overdosed on caffeine that as well as impacting hydration impacts absorption of different minerals much like the anti nutrients found in higher levels in vegan or vegetarian diets and predominantly found in seeds, grains and legumes;
- Protease inhibitors
For many reasons I typically base my meals around protein sources, whether its a meal or snack. Protein translates as “first place” so in my book it’s literally first place food macronutrient of choice as opposed to the keto, high fats or high carb, low fat fans. I tend to think what will I have with this chicken or cheese. Not, I fancy pasta what will I have with it or I’m going to make a sandwich what will I stick in it. I do eat bread and pasta but not every day and if I have bread I try not to also have pasta the same day. I always notice the more days I go without any gluten grains; pasta, bread, rolls I feel better energy wise and my digestive system seems to be happy about that.
In Metabolic Typing speak I am a Fast Oxidiser. I metabolise sugars/carbs too fast and run out of energy only coping with a more carb based diet if I eat larger quantities but then my guts suffer. I definitely perform better on a predominantly meat based diet and more so if its liver, steak, eggs and supported with butter, coconut oil and dairy. The veg I tend to eat are olives, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and avocado. I try not to overdo the tomatoes but I do like them. Now without going off on a tangent I maybe currently functioning as a slightly different Metabolic Type and I have been working on the systems supporting my metabolism, hormones, immune and liver, and therefore need slightly more carbs than previously.
There are several people that I follow whether I take their education courses or follow their podcasts or social media content. Many of the experts I turn to for advice or further learning have come from my relationships developed through the years of working as a Metabolic Typing Advisor so as well as Bill Wolcott, Paul Chek, Reed Davis, Michael McEvoy, I have become a big time fan of the approach to nutrition science taken by Bryan Walsh. On a recent training he covered the need to balance protein intake that is acidifying with potassium’s that is alkalinising. Many worry about high protein diets stressing the kidneys but the kidneys thrive on potassium, so the higher protein foods may be lower in potassium and the lack of potassium is the issue.
I tend to strive for at least 1.5g to 2g per kg of bodyweight daily. I don’t tend to measure it as I have learned over the years what roughly constitutes 20-40g of protein as a portion and I know that the body on average can only digest and metabolism 20-40g per meal, or at a time. When I want to add more muscle I will typically go above 2g and up to 3g per kg of bodyweight daily. There are studies that show greater need for protein as you age and at my advancing years, now 51, this seems more pertinent as a dietary goal. There are also studies showing muscular gains purely from the addition of protein to the diet.
At my current bodyweight, 244g of protein is an upper limit target, and that should be balanced with around 11,000mg of potassium. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 3,400mg. It’s not uncommon to need to supplement with protein for an easier life and to make sure you hit your target when life is busy but also to supplement potassium as its a pain always having to pump your food intake into an app to figure out if you got it right.
- Peanut Butter
- Cottage Cheese
Supplement the food gaps, improve efficiency and support the dysfunction
I have wrote in the past about the essential role of supplements and I have taken supplements right back to when I was a child, Haliborange multivitamins and a spoonful of Seven Seas cod liver oil to choke down were the order of the day. I think to be fair that has stood me in good stead as I can drink MCT oil or flax seed oil by the spoonful or pints of psyllium husks, prune juice, or steak tartare, raw heart, raw milk, camels milk and raw eggs all tasty goodness that springs to mind over the years.
Recently I have been trying to be a better role model to myself and not stay up late working or studying. I have been in a bad habit before, when the house is quiet and everyone is in bed, you get the brain space to focus and can get in the zone especially for writing content or blog posts. The problem is that then switches the brain on and you find you are awake and end up typing away after midnight and then when you do head to bed you want to read. I have in the past used various sleep tracking apps when I should have used the Calm app to switch off. When I don’t get sucked into late night work I am lucky in that I can fall asleep anywhere and pretty much press the off the switch off, and off I go. Assuming I haven’t had caffeine too late in the day or too much water before bed I can sleep like a baby. One and maybe the only thing to be thankful when it comes to the changing world we live in and life from the lockdowns onwards, is not needing to be on the motorway by 530am. So I now wake up refreshed and at a later more human time. I like early mornings once I get up but as one of my clients likes to refer to 6 or 630am sessions as “the middle of the night” it’s not always the best for health. We are all different and cope with different stresses and have different natural sleep-wake cycles. I do have night owl tendencies, possibly developed from studying at university or possibly just a love of burning the candle at both ends. You need to be aware of your own nature and make accommodations.
Another factor to consider in assessing the success of your day, how stressed you are, how good is your diet, how fast you are chewing your food, how hydrated you are, the health of your gut and how efficient your digestion is, is being aware of the regularity of your trips to the toilet. I don’t think it’s obsessive but some people would think it is. If all is well with your digestion you are likely to have a rhythm, a typical time of day you have a bowel movement(s). A change in your routine might put this schedule out of whack and that should be a fairly obvious guide all is not well. If you haven’t slept well or drank enough water, reduced the fibre in your diet or are having a stressful time your bowels normally let you know they aren’t happy. If this becomes regular it’s likely you won’t become regular. Not going to the toilet regularly can in turn disrupt your sleep, change the foods you want to eat, cause back pain or abdominal pain. If you go to exercise it can impact how your stomach muscles work and change how you move, being negative that could lead to injury. When you haven’t gone and you need to go, your deep abdominal muscles can become less supportive. It’s not surprising you can feel sluggish, low mood and lack the oomph to get on with your day. Sleep, water, movement, breathing exercises, obviously fibre are all key to regular bowel movements. However when you do go and it’s effort to perform, you are there long enough that you have taken root, there are little friends left behind or someone can’t use the toilet straight after you without defumigating, then it’s an idea to dig deeper by running a stool test to establish the presence of bugs that shouldn’t be hiding out in your digestive tract or are there in too high numbers. This can also cover reasons for food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies that bring on a whole host of stresses and symptoms.
I have finally learned what doesn’t work me. I have spent enough time working on managing stress and balancing my hormones to learn I can’t train hard if I haven’t eaten, so I won’t just do it anyway. I also won’t train if I haven’t been getting quality sleep. I used to train regardless of the stress I was under whereas for years now I do train on stressful days but it’s short and high intensity. Training twice a day and longer than 60 minutes are no more when stress is high. Burn off the stress, like fighting a tiger and then get back to the safety of my cave, with good food, supplements and get on with being productive is much much more common the way things go these days. More common sense maybe but also have ran enough hormone tests to know how I cope with stress and how best to manage it. It’s no longer about sucking it up. If I’m not ready to go for it when I planned to train it doesn’t happen and I save it for another today to come back with a vengeance.
On this particular day I wasn’t the busiest, there were 6 consultations; 3 nutrition, 1 nutrition and fitness and 2, that the sole focus was fitness so heavy on the exercise demonstrations. Typically there is a lot of time sitting typing, blog posts, protocols, client follow up and all the really exciting admin that has to get done and of course Nutrition consultations are seated. So I felt that I had had a relatively good sleep, the day was going well, not high stress, I had got access to the food I wanted to eat mostly when I wanted and therefore was in a good mood (I think I’m normally in a good mood), therefore I went ahead with my plan to work on demanding upper body exercises. The aim was to do full range of motion barbell back squats, butt as low as I could get on each rep continuously for 6 minutes. Then to work up the weight in alternating, one handed kettlebell swings for 14 minutes with no rest between changing hands or weight. Which was sweaty, raised the heart rate and was fun, always has to be fun no matter how hard it is.
On other days it can all go wrong of course. I thought for this post to show the things that you can focus on each day to maximise your health based around sound nutrition principles it was better to discuss a day that worked for me. Other days can out of necessity be back to back with client appointments and the work for each session can take up a lot of time, leaving little left for all the good stuff that builds health. So I try to maximise what works for me on the days that I can get it all done and then aim to have more of these days than disaster days. That way when you have to work late, miss meals or skip workouts it has less of a negative impact as you are more robust and cope. Also when you have good days you learn the key things that work for you, that you need to make sure happen each day regardless. That might be, working out or your mood suffers too much, not eating right leads to poor blood sugar control and fatigue, cravings and headaches, or missing your key supplements and you suffer bloating, gas and abdominal pains. Life is a journey and it’s all about learning what works for you but there are always so many good things that can be added in each day to help you stay on track once you know how your body works in the inside. That’s why I rely on testing and then putting the findings into practice.